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After four years of online teaching, I’ve realized there are a few things that every online teacher needs.
These are the teacher tools I cannot live without, and I recommend them to every online English teacher!
Many lessons later, I’ve built an arsenal of items that have become my everyday essentials. If you are working from home as an online English teacher, here are the things you will need to get started:
Perhaps the most obvious item on the list for online English teachers is a laptop.
When I started teaching full-time, I was still using my three-year-old college Toshiba. It had seen better days.
I always thought that I could stick with it, but it slowed down a lot, and it could take up to 15 minutes to start. It was causing me unnecessary stress, and I ended up missing classes as a result.
I knew that I had to invest in a decent laptop if I wanted to start working from home. After hours of meticulous research, I found the perfect laptop.
This laptop looks very similar to a MacBook without the hefty price tag. It’s also super-fast and efficient, the perfect size to fit in a small bag. The screen size itself is certainly the most optimal size for online teaching.
The sound quality is great through my headphones, and the 720p webcam is a teaching standard. I bought an HD webcam separately.
It honestly made me a lot more time-efficient because the laptop is fast, and you can get so much more work done. It really was a game-changer when teaching online.
I’ve also edited videos and photos on it without a problem. I couldn’t be happier with my choice, and it has so much storage!
Not what you’re looking for? Check out some more laptop options for teachers here.
I decided that I was sick of headphones after buying one of the highest-rated ones (Mpow) on Amazon. They didn’t cover my ears properly, they felt heavy, and they were uncomfortable.
The padding was way too thick, and my delicate ears felt punctured. So I decided to invest in the Battlebuds headset.
These earphones are equipped with a mic and designed to clip into the ear to not slip out like regular ones. Honestly, these were a game-changer, and I NEVER went back to headphones again.
They are like earphones, and they come in different ear tip sizes so you can find the perfect fit. The mic can be easily attached and removed.
If they are good enough for a hard-core gamer, they are good enough for me. But are they good enough for companies?
Just be prepared as companies generally insist on a USB headset as the company standard. The battle buds are jack cable only.
While some companies have insisted on this, they’ve quickly realized that there isn’t a problem with these and let me use them instead. Show that they function well in the IT test, or wear a different headset for IT tests.
I HIGHLY recommend these if you find your current headset uncomfortable. They are a good choice for people who wear glasses too, as they don’t press against them like regular headphones. Others wear Apple AirPods, but I like ones that I can plug into my laptop.
If you are unsure whether your company will allow for earphones like the ones mentioned and want to play it safe, consider getting a headset like these popular options:
An ethernet cable will help stabilize the internet connection and will ensure a smoother classroom experience. Some companies will require teachers to use an ethernet cable instead of depending on Wifi.
Hard-wiring your device to an Ethernet cable can improve speed and be more secure.
I know you might be laughing right now but… get a desk that will hold your things. Seriously.
An online English teacher has every prop known to man. The question is: how do you organize it all?! Well, let me tell you; the desk is your foundation.
I bought a desk that has since been made unavailable on Amazon. It is, however, similar to the one in the image below.
The L-shape table holds all my props on one side, and I can fetch them during class when the need arises. It also looks aesthetically pleasing and has lots of storage space, so mission accomplished!
Feel free to find a desk you like or buy separate storage containers.
When I say “office chair” I actually mean any chair that gives efficient support to your spine and will keep you feeling comfortable.
The chair you sit on definitely impacts your posture and health. If you buy a cheap chair, you might be at risk to back problems in the long run. It could even be enough to stop you from sitting down and doing some work!
I bought a chair based on how it looked, which in hindsight was a bad decision. You can find some good gaming chairs that look very comfortable and offer great support, like this one:
If you already have a chair and don’t want to invest a lot of money just yet, I totally understand! There are additional supports you can add to a chair to make it slightly better:
I would love to get a good chair because the current chair I have makes me ache. Be careful when choosing the chair you plan to sit at each day!
These are some of the treasures you may never even think about until it’s too late!
I realized that sitting in front of a screen all day was wreaking havoc on my posture. My lower back hurt, and I was leaning towards my laptop without noticing.
When you are at home, and nobody can see how you are sitting, it is very easy to sit in a way that doesn’t help your posture.
Whatever bad posture habit you may have can take a toll on your body in the long run.
I found that investing in a proper laptop stand propped my laptop perfectly to my eye level. It helped me improve my posture, too, because it gave me a reason to sit up straight. I was no longer looking downwards at a screen but looking in an upright position.
This also helped me look better on-screen too. You can adjust the angle of the stand so that you are always level with the webcam. By positioning it this way, the student can feel as if they were looking straight at you.
You should also buy a keyboard separate so you are not reaching for the keys.
If you are teaching students, you will likely be expected to have a plain or decorated background. Many teachers make some simple changes to add some personality and fun to their background.
The appearance of your background is actually important in online ESL schools, especially among children. A tapestry or poster is a good starting point for your ESL classroom.
You can find more of our best background ideas here.
Depending on the time you teach, you may consider purchasing strong, efficient lighting.
The light I bought is so perfect for picture-taking that I no longer need to assign a photographer when I am going out on a night out! Instead, I use this bad boy.
You can adjust it to whatever height you want, along with choosing the exact brightness and type of color.
I usually teach when it is bright outside (8am onwards), so lighting is not too much of a concern for me. I’d also consider using stronger lighting or using more than one light if you plan to get up at 5 am or teach in the dark evenings. See some more lighting options.
Having good lighting will definitely help give your classroom a much more pleasant and inviting feel. Definitely worth the investment!
If you haven’t heard, blue light from phones and laptops can actually cause vision problems over time. It can cause retinal damage and interferes with your sleep cycle.
To help prevent this, I decided to buy anti-blue light glasses. They have filters in their lenses that block or absorb blue light. I don’t actually wear these during class time (my glasses look funny), but they are great for anyone who uses technology.
The main benefits I’ve noticed are that my eyes no longer feel strained, and I can fall asleep earlier.
I also have ordinary glasses too, but I don’t actually wear them very often because my eyes don’t depend on them. I prefer to wear anti-blue light glasses when working on tasks online and in the evenings before bed. I believe that you can also find prescription-based anti-blue light glasses.
Teddy bears are great, sure, but puppets are the next level. It really creates a buzz when young learners see a puppet talking to them on the other side of the screen.
Kids love to play, and the more we can incorporate ‘play’ into the lesson, the more the kids enjoy learning English.
Puppets are highly recommended by online ESL companies such as Gogokid, because you can show the student how to answer a question by modelling with a puppet.
Puppets can be purchased cheaply, or you can make your own with a few simple materials. You can own more than one to add a bit of variety to your regular student’s classes.
Young kids absolutely love these, and they will be laughing a lot.
I highly suggest writing a journal every day. Not the sort of ‘dear diary’ journal, although that’s also an option!
Staying disciplined when working at home can be a hard task. If you can keep a list of things you need to get done each day, it will help you focus much better and achieve your goals.
The practice of ticking off tasks from a journal as you complete them is said to give you a boost of dopamine. Who doesn’t love dopamine?!
I regularly write down new ideas and lists of things I need to do. It’s also a good place to write down English grammar rules or vocabulary. I can refer to these when I am teaching specific lessons. You might also want to write some notes to remember about your students.
Whiteboards are good for young learners. A little whiteboard can be used as a secondary rewards system.
For example, you could draw an apple tree, and every time the student answers correctly, you could add another apple to the tree. Or you could take one away if they are misbehaving.
The whiteboard can also be used to explain certain things, such as how to write the letter A.
Check out more props that I use for teaching young learners.
Using the touchpad on your laptop is a complete waste of time, trust me. It took me so long to perform simple tasks in the online classroom.
For a long time, I was under the ignorant impression that the mouse doesn’t make a difference. It makes everything 10x faster, and trust me; you need it in the fast-paced online classroom.
You can plug one into the SS drive, but a Bluetooth mouse also does wonders, and it will save you from one extra ugly wire.
If your laptop doesn’t already have an HD webcam, consider getting one! It makes a huge difference, and it is considered a teaching standard by some online teaching companies.
Almost any HD webcam will do the trick, and they are straightforward to set up. Simply plug the webcam into your USB drive to connect to your computer or laptop. Prop the webcam on top of your laptop, and you are good to go! See our best webcams for teachers.
Your students will see you clearly, and it will almost feel like they are present with you! It is a one-time purchase and a worthwhile one for your professional classroom image.
Over time, teachers are bound to gather many supplies such as puppets, flashcards, and kids’ awards. This will leave your office space looking like a kiddies’ toy room!
To organize everything, consider purchasing a storage unit for your props. Here is an expanding file folder for your 2D props cutouts. Never worry about losing them again!
Here are some larger storage boxes.
If you are a teacher and don’t drink coffee, I am in awe. I drink it before I start teaching each day. I think the caffeine is necessary to keep up with the energy levels of an eight-year-old child. I also find I need it for adult group sessions.
One or two cups a day is enough for me, but if you drink more, I won’t judge 😉 I think coffee deserves a very formidable mention.
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That concludes my list of equipment for online teachers! Are there any other things that you cannot survive without when working at home? Let me know in the comments section below!
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